Integrity testing refers to the task of assessing an individual’s integrity, usually within a preemployment assessment situation, for the purposes of determining whether that person might be considered suitable for employment in a specific job role. Until recently, integrity was viewed as synonymous with the term honesty, and thus integrity testing originally referred to the assessment of an individual’s honesty, an attribute defining someone as being sincere and genuine and not prone to stealing, lying, or cheating. This assessment could be undertaken by a self-report questionnaire, as in the famous London House psychometric tests, or perhaps by structured interview or even by measurement of autonomic nervous system functions, such as respiration rate, heart rate, skin conductance, pupil dilation, and muscle tension. These latter measures were usually undertaken by a trained assessor using a polygraph.
The use of self-report integrity testing specifically as an assessment of an individual’s honesty is mostly associated with retail, transient storage, and warehouse work situations. For example, this form of integrity testing has been used for occupations such as retail and supplies warehouse staff, airline baggage handlers, and checkout operators in supermarkets. These are the kinds of jobs in which the opportunities for theft and cheating are readily available to staff. Likewise, security workers, law enforcement officials, and workers who may be handling sensitive corporate, government, or military information would be likely to undergo a structured interview or some form of biologically based preemployment integrity screening. These latter kinds of tests are more expensive in time and expertise to administer but have the advantage of not relying solely on the “honesty” of individuals to self-report their responses to probe questions. Furthermore, such tests may be applied throughout employment as part of a periodic security clearance check.
More recently, two other terms have come into use to describe workplace integrity in employees: employee reliability and counterproductive behavior. The two terms reflect the broadening of the meaning of honesty and integrity from the relatively narrow conceptualization of theft, lying, and cheating that first defined the integrity tests of the early 1980s to a range of employee behaviors, attitudes, and dispositions considered not conducive to efficient and effective work practices or counterproductive to organizational “health.” In this widening of the definition, the use of personality tests as integrity tests has become more prevalent in preemployment testing.
Attributes such as conscientiousness, self-control, and agreeableness are now considered the primary characteristics associated with well-adjusted, productive employees. Individuals who display less of these characteristics are seen as potentially counterproductive or unreliable employees. Recent research evidence, compiled and averaged over hundreds of studies, has confirmed that integrity and counterproductive personality attributes are highly valid predictors of successful job performance and training success, alongside general mental ability.
- Electronic employment screening
- Ethics and careers
- Handwriting analysis in hiring
- Personnel selection
- Motowidlo, S. J. 2003. “Job Performance.” Pp. 39-54 in The Handbook of Psychology. 12, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, edited by W. C. Borman, D. R. Ilgen and R. J. Klimoski. New York: Wiley.
- Sackett, P. R. and DeVore, C. J. 2001. “Counterproductive Behaviors at Work.” Pp. 145-164 in The Handbook of Industrial, Work, and Organizational Psychology, 1. Edited by N. Anderson, D. S. Ones, H. K. Sinangil and C. Viswesvaran. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Schmidt, F. L. and Hunter, J. E. 1998. The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 85 Years of Research Findings. Psychological Bulletin 124:262-274.